Lost Light

One of the most intriguing stories in historic #Charleston is that of the Morris Island Lighthouse, built in 1876. The 161-foot lighthouse was decommissioned in 1962, but has stood, remarkably, against tides and winds ever since. As land eroded around the lighthouse, it became surrounded by water at high tide, and fears that it might collapse led to a “save the light” movement that has bolstered its base. The great irony here is that there is no light to save. The Morris Island light had been equipped with a Fresnel Lens, invented by French physicist Augustin-Jean Fresnel in the early 1800’s. The unique feature of the lens is that it uses vast layers of glass crystals in a myriad of layers to both reflect and refract light, a principle known as catadiotropic, and could capture more light from a light source in order to project it farther, in this case about 20 miles. The lens installed at Morris Island stands nearly 8 feet high and weighs well over a ton, but it doesn’t stand on Morris Island. Years after the lighthouse was decommissioned in 1962, and erosion seems to make its collapse imminent, the big lens was extracted and moved to the 1875 Hunting Island Lighthouse near Beaufort, which is the only lighthouse open to the public in South Carolina today. Fortunately, visitors don’t have to scale it’s 167 steps to see the sense, which stands just inside the ground floor entrance. <img.src=”Charleston Curiosities” alt=”Morris Island Lighthouse”

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